Fiat 124 Spider heads to the Arctic Circle

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#Fiat #CarsFiat 124 Spider heads to the Arctic Circle : Ingrid the sat-nav is in a state of distress. The drive from London to Amsterdam was a slow-moving tailback that obviously melted her microchip. So for the past two days I’ve suffered phantom traffic alerts in a region of north Sweden jammed only with trees.

Silver birch and fir trees – millions of them blanket the countryside inside the Arctic Circle. Even the trucks are heaving with arrowstraight trunks bound for pulp and paper mills. Every load leaves a vapour trail that fills the open cockpit of my Fiat 124 Spider with eau de Christmas tree.

“Traffic jam ahead.” There she goes again, except I haven’t seen another car for 20 minutes. The only reason to slow is a solitary crosscountry skier using wheeled skis on the smooth road surface for pre-season training.

It’s October and night temperatures have already dipped to -6deg C in these parts. The Swedes have swapped their summer rubber for winter tyres and stuffed the glovebox with snus – moist tobacco pouches that pop under the tongue to give a nicotine hit.

We have no need for artificial stimuli in the 124, although the Spider doesn’t have a glovebox, or door pockets, for that matter. Even so, Fiat’s long-awaited roadster is still giving a nation of Volvo owners something to smile about.

It could be the dead raccoon keeping my ears warm, or the fact that I’ve driven from London with the hood stowed, but I haven’t seen Scandinavians this happy since Abba stormed Brighton in 1974.

In fact, it’s impossible not to be happy in a cheeky two-seater like the new Spider. It’s eminently affordable, too. There should even be enough left over from £20,000 to buy a silly hat for driving in the winter months.

The warm welcome in Sweden suggests the Spider has the ability to put the fun back in to Fiat. Not because it’s laugh-out-loud ugly like the old Multipla but because this is a spirited little roadster that doesn’t have any pretensions of grandeur.

It’s not perfect, but after 2000 miles of travel from London to the 66th parallel, I can think of only one closely related, rear-wheeldrive roadster that would be just as enjoyable for the money…

THE START POINT

“Driving to the Arctic Circle in a Fiat? You’ll never make it, pal!” London taxi drivers have an opinion on everything, and 20 years ago I might have agreed, but then I remind him that the 124 is the sister car of the über-reliable Mazda MX-5.